By Susan Adams – Next Level Performance
There are a lot of companies out there planning incentive travel programs using only internal resources. Often, that means assigning a meeting planner or charging someone in sales or marketing with the project. Here’s why you’re better off hiring an incentive travel company – or third party planner – to help you with your program:


# 5 Depth on the Bench
When an incentive house is managing a program, we’re not just providing a planner. We’re providing a marketing and communications team, finance, air ticketing agents, knowledgeable staff to field participant questions, and even a buying team for room gifts and other merchandise. And that’s just here in the office! On site, we’re bringing experienced trip directors – typically former planners or travel executives – and working with local experts. Yes, there’s a management fee to hire an incentive travel company, but there’s tremendous value in the broad range of skills and expertise that come with that investment.

#4 Know Where to Go. And Where Not To.
It happens all the time. Someone said they just loved a tiny island in the Caribbean and it would be great for the next program. Or maybe a local planner offered an unbeatable price to an exciting destination. It’s important to think through the details. If it’s the low season and rates are great, why is that? Is it also the rainy season in the rainforest and your guests will be trapped inside for days watching it rain? And, that tiny island, can it handle big planes? How many flights will it take to get 300 people there? Will you spend half of your time getting to and from the destination, not to mention taking sometimes-harrowing puddle-jumper flights? It might work for one or two people, but be a grueling trek for a larger group.

The team at an incentive travel company knows their destinations. They know when the weather is right, and how security is on-island. They know which destinations cause the least amount of pain and suffering just to get there. And they know where reliable partners provide services that you can be proud of for your program. After all, the experience of the trip is a reflection of your brand to your invited guests.

#3  Buying Power and Negotiations
Hotels, airlines, décor companies, entertainment agencies, and more… They all present different planning challenges and their contracts are no different. Incentive travel companies have the benefit of running multiple programs every year, and a deep knowledge of the ins and outs of these agreements. We know what to look for and we fight for the best for our clients. We’ll know what terms and concessions to push for to ensure the greatest possible value for every program. We want to be sure that no hotel can move your function without your approval, and that there’s a little wiggle room, in case there are changes to the program. We think it’s fair that you’re protected in case there’s construction at the hotel or a change of management. We’ll always be sure that payment terms and minimums are reasonable.  Our vendors know that ours is an on-going relationship and they’ll work with us to keep it positive.

#2 It’s an Art
Every incentive planner is an artist. Aside from understanding the square footage of the ballroom and how much time it takes for 1000 people to board 25 motor coaches, their greatest skill really lies in their ability to manage the art of the program. Little details like the ribbons on room gifts, and big details like the ambiance and entertainment on the final night, reflect the care and creativity of the planner. Crafting each experience to fit the bigger picture of the event, the brand, and the guests’ expectations, a planner brings focus to every moment, and designs a multi-day event that will be unforgettable in myriad ways.

#1 Crisis Management
When we plan a program, we always think about it in its best light, with everything just as we planned it. But the reality can be very different and an incentive travel company can help you get through it. We’ve carried bags, wrapped in plastic, through floodwaters. We’ve maneuvered around political protests to get to dinner. And we’ve worked day and night to get people home safely during hurricanes and snow storms. When you work with an incentive planner, they have the resources and mandate to call everyone in to help.  Their entire team, from air agents to marketing communications to technology, can pitch in to support overcoming whatever challenges are faced on site. We’ve been there. We know how important it is to have the knowledge and resources you need when things don’t go right.

Check out the Next Level Performance SITE Crystal Awards case study in the category of Most Effective Incentive Marketing Campaign for Treasures of Tuscany. This category specifically recognizes motivational programs that deliver business results, and how innovative design and consistent communications engage participants from the qualification period through the completion of the incentive travel experience to drive these results.


About Susan Adams:
Susan Adams is Vice-President of Engagement at Next Level Performance. She serves on the board of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and chairs the IRF Research Committee, has served on the board of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), is a past president of the Recognition Council, and a past member of the Performance Improvement Council and Incentive and Engagement Solution Providers (IESP). Susan specializes in the strategies and benefits of employee engagement, incentive, and recognition programs.